By Jessica Wohl
April 9 Wal-Mart Stores Inc, the world's
largest retailer, is making its biggest push yet to try to
improve conditions at factories that produce its clothing after
a fire at a Bangladesh factory last year killed 112 people.
The company also said Tuesday it would donate $1.6 million
to help start a new Bangladesh training academy, and outlined
its efforts to regain control over the complex and far-flung web
of factories that make its products.
"With the focus that is there at the moment on fire safety,
everyone is keen to make sure that they get the right level of
controls in place to protect the workers," Rajan Kamalanathan,
Wal-Mart's vice president of ethical sourcing, said in an
interview. "There is a need for that."
Wal-Mart says it was unaware that its private-label clothing
was being made at the Tazreen Fashions factory in Bangladesh,
which went up in flames in November, killing 112 people and
injuring at least 150. Bangladeshi authorities said the facility
was not safe for use, and Wal-Mart said it had not authorized
anyone to make its garments there.
The fire gave rise to criticism that Wal-Mart should have
been more aware of its supply chain. Since the fire, Wal-Mart
has been taking a harder look at what it can do to monitor
safety at the low-cost factories that produce its goods.
While products for other companies, such as Sears Holdings
Corp, were also being made at Tazreen, the biggest push
for safety improvements has been on Wal-Mart.
Disney-branded products were also found in the remains of
the factory following the fire, but Walt Disney Co said
its records showed that none of its authorized licensees had
manufactured Disney-branded products there.
SUPPLIER DISCLOSURES DUE NEXT WEEK
Wal-Mart sent a 10-page letter to suppliers in January to
lay out its policies. Since then, it has held meetings with them
in Bentonville, Arkansas, where it is based; in Bangkok, and
The company has given its suppliers until April 15 to
disclose which factories they work with, and says it will sever
ties with those that subcontract work without telling Wal-Mart.
Along with the donation to the Institute for Sustainable
Communities (ISC), Wal-Mart last month started to have Bureau
Veritas, a European testing and inspection company,
assess factories and train workers on its behalf in Bangladesh.
ISC plans to set up an Environmental, Health and Safety
Academy in Bangladesh with the $1.6 million in funding from
Wal-Mart and $2 million from Sida, the Swedish International
ISC plans to start training factory managers and workers in
Bangladesh in August and is trying to line up more partners for
the project, said Barbara McAndrew, ISC's vice president for
It is still not clear how much companies would have to pay
for the training, Wal-Mart and ISC said.
ISC already runs two similar academies in China. The Walmart
Foundation, Wal-Mart's philanthropic arm, has contributed
$300,000 to that effort. Other companies, including General
Electric and Adidas, have also given support,